SHE may not log the most minutes on the team, or post eye-popping numbers, but the importance of Andrea Wilson to Bendigo Spirit runs deep.
Wilson, who grew up in the country town of Leongatha, has found a home in Bendigo and has been with the club since its inception in 2007.
Bendigo is where she has honed her craft at the top level of basketball in the Australia, but she acknowledges just how important the Leongatha environment was as she developed her game.
“Leongatha was great – we had a great group of girls that I kind of went from U12s through to under 18s with and had some had some good times and some successes.” Wilson said. “For a small town we did pretty well and it was great to begin forming the foundations of my basketball career all the way back then.”
Wilson was never the tallest or most athletic kid on the team, but her work ethic and determination has gotten her to where she is today.
“Growing up I probably wasn’t the most talented kid but I always gave it a crack and persisted through the country programs.” Wilson said. “I didn’t always make every team I tried out for, but I always made sure I was training hard.”
Her advice to others coming up through the ranks is simple; “Persist and train hard.”
It is these qualities and attitude that have endeared Wilson to the Bendigo community and those within the Spirit.
Although Wilson doesn’t always see minutes on the court, she continually drives herself and those around her to improve – this is as important as ever for Bendigo as they look to the future with a host of young players coming through.
The example that Wilson sets for the younger players on the team is simply invaluable.
“I’m not always hitting the court but in terms of a team aspect… I’m just trying to contribute and making sure the girls are on their toes.” Wilson said. “If I get the chance, I jump at it, but I just make sure I’m training hard and being switched on to what is happening.”
Wilson has been with the Spirit from the beginning and because of this, the back-to-back WNBL Championships in 2013 and 2014 were made that much sweeter.
“Initially we kind of struggled our way through – we were thereabouts with getting into finals and we had a few years where we’d make it and get knocked out in the first week,” Wilson said. “There were a few patches along the way when getting wins or grinding out wins were difficult.
This only made the group stronger and made them that much hungrier.
“We had a good group that stayed together for quite a while and then we reaped the rewards with those two championships.” Wilson said. “Because we had sort of been through it all together and then to get that success was just amazing.
“You’ll never forget the championships – you have to experience the lows to truly appreciate the highs.
“The Championships are definitely a highlight in my basketball career.”
Of those two success-filled years, Wilson remembers the support from the Bendigo community fondly.
“Being able to do it on our home court, with the stadium jam-packed with supporters was just an amazing feeling,” Wilson said. “The lead-up was great, the whole town got behind us and that is what you play basketball for.”
With full-time work and a busy basketball schedule, being organised and committed to both is extremely important.
This is a challenge that most WNBL players have to deal with and Wilson takes it all in her stride.
“To be able to time manage to fit your training schedule in and then working life is something that is just has to be balanced.” Wilson said.
Whilst there have been countless coaches along the way that have helped Wilson achieve her goals, she distinguishes former Bendigo coach, Bernie Harrower as an incredible influence on her career.
“I’ve been in Bendigo for quite a while now and Bernie (Harrower) had a huge influence on my basketball career.” Wilson said. “He gave me an opportunity when I moved up here for university all those years ago.”
Current Bendigo coach Simon Pritchard is another who has helped Wilson over the journey, and is one that Wilson loves to play for.
“He’s very team orientated and every player gets to have their input – that obviously makes for a good combination.” Wilson said.
Wilson is excited for what the future holds in Bendigo – after playing their first practice match on the weekend against Melbourne, which resulted in a four-point win, Wilson is excited to get the real stuff underway.
“It’s an exciting time because it’s a different approach this year with some new players,” Wilson said. “We’re just sort of getting a feel for each other at the moment.” Wilson said. “It might take a little bit of time to gel but it’s something to look forward to.”
Andrea Wilson is the type of player that every team loves to have; the ultimate teammate and professional in every sense of the word.
With Wilson on the team, there will always be spirit in Bendigo.